Friday, 19 September 2014
Stressed out cats
To me, cats always seem enviably placid and imperturbable, quite indifferent to what's going on around them and absorbed in their mysterious feline ruminations. But obviously I'm mistaken and they aren't nearly as placid as I imagine.
No doubt the cat-owners among you could easily have enlightened me (and will of course confirm what follows).
According to cat experts Pippa Hutchison and John Bradshaw, cats show their stress in subtle ways like sleeping under the bed, over-grooming and scratching.
Contrary to popular belief, many cats don't like going outdoors and feel much safer staying inside. They can be quite scared of sharing territory with the local cats, especially ones that don't want other cats on their patch. Unlike dogs and humans, they're not naturally sociable.
In the rest of Europe, where many people live in flats, cats are more commonly kept indoors and it doesn't seem to do them any harm.
Cats can find any number of things stressful - a new baby, a new home, the death of another pet, visitors, loud noises, traffic, travel, confinement, strange odours, or even a new type of cat litter. They may be spooked just by another cat looking at them from a neighbouring wall. The most "laid back" cats can become stressed, despite being outwardly calm.
Some experts recommend a special "cat room" or hiding place, out of bounds to dogs and children, where a cat can retreat if it feels the need.
I can understand the feline tendency to withdraw. My response to stress is much the same - I withdraw rather than getting aggressive, and wait for things to get calmer. I don't tend to over-groom or sleep under the bed though.